''Capturing sunlight in a form you can eat.''
That is how Wayne McIntosh describes the fruit produced on
his family's award-winning orchard at Earnscleugh, near
Mr McIntosh, who has been managing the orchard for 10 years,
was the supreme winner of this year's Otago Ballance Farm
Environment Awards and hosted a field day on the property on
The 64ha property has about 34,000 trees producing cherries,
peaches, nectarines, apricots, apples and a range of trial
Judging co-ordinator Judy Miller said there were nine
entrants in the Otago competition this year and four
properties went through to the final round.
The judges for the final comprised Matt Harcombe (Ministry
for Primary Industries), Marie Casey (PGG Wrightson),
Waitahuna farmer and former winner Ron Alderton, and Bernard
They described McIntosh Orchard as a top producing orchard,
with vision and strategy to promote the region and be
recognised nationally and internationally.
There was a long-term sustainability focus through management
of soil and water resource and wise agrichemical use.
Effective risk management was a feature of the business,
managing climatic, market, social, business and labour risks.
There was an ''outstanding mix of innovation'' that included
and was informed by a multigenerational approach to
orcharding in the area.
Mr McIntosh, who will attend the Sustainability Showcase in
Christchurch, on June 26, where the winner of the Gordon
Stephenson Trophy will be named, encouraged others to enter
It was very seldom people came in and critically assessed
your business and gave constructive feedback, without an
owner to pay for it. It was also only rarely that you took
the time to look back on your business, he said.
Originally part of Earnscleugh Station, McIntosh Orchard has
been in the family since 1881 and it was first established as
a cropping farm. Fruit trees were introduced in 1910 and a
sheep farm established.
Mr McIntosh's father Stuart said there had been continuously
more plantings over the years, as it was either ''get bigger
or get out''.
At one time, he ran up to 1200 sheep on the property but, as
the emphasis on fruit continued, their numbers reduced and
the last of the breeding ewes left the property a few weeks
Wayne McIntosh came home from teaching, travelling and
playing rugby in 2004 and entered into partnership with his
father and his mother, Sharyn.
The orchard has a permanent staff of eight and employs
between 40 and 50 seasonal staff. They supplied 4-5% of the
peaches and nectarines sold domestically each year, while
cherries accounted for about 40% of their income.
How they had been able to stay in business was a ''real
tribute'' to the people who worked for them. Without them,
succession and sustainability would not happen, Wayne
They were surrounded by a very good team, both at the orchard
and with other businesses that supported them. Technology had
also helped them get to where they needed to be.
Their produce was available throughout the country and
offshore markets included China, Europe and the United
They had branched out and formed exclusive marketing
relationships with select companies to various key export
The majority of their trees were relatively new plantings and
30% were less than 7 years old. New varieties were being
trialled continuously, while established varieties were
assessed annually for returns and a cost/benefit analysis.
Continually there was 5% of all production under the banner
of ''new market opportunities''.
Mr McIntosh was ''quite excited'' about the future of apples
and they had done some expansion into new varieties,
Pipfruit New Zealand director and Ettrick orchardist Stephen
Darling, who attended the field day, said Honeycrisp was a
fairly new variety and it had very high value in the United
States. While orchardists were still learning how to grow
them in Otago, he believed they had promise.
Mr McIntosh was also trialling feijoas. Whether they were
viable or not, he did not know but it was about ''having a
go'' and trying new varieties, which could lengthen the
harvest season and utilise resources in the packing house.
He was also looking at Kiwi berries which, again, were an
unknown and a challenge.
''In farming and in fruit growing, there's lots of challenges
and that's the fun of it,'' he said.
His parents were still living on the property and he was very
grateful for the knowledge transfer and support.
He was ''pretty confident'' about the future and was into the
business ''boots and all''.
''You've got to be totally committed. It's being passionate
about what you do and I'm pretty passionate about growing a
product that's good for you,'' he said.
Water was a key factor for growing fruit in the area and all
the orchard was under irrigation, half in overhead sprinklers
but they were gradually changing to the more effective
The Earnscleugh irrigation scheme, which supplied their
water, covered 1100ha and about 119 customers. With water
coming from Lake Dunstan, it was a totally reliable supply,
Earnscleugh Irrigation director Tony Lepper said.
Mr McIntosh said the use of water was also significant for
frost-fighting - the second step after pruning to ensure they
had a product to sell.
Their job was to ensure there was fruit on the trees, so they
had work for their staff and could maintain sustainability
He was very keen to see young people enter the industry and
see there was a viable and rewarding career path in